When it comes to building a memorable brand, consistency is everything.
Just look at the world’s most recognizable companies and how fast you recognize them. A glimpse of the swoosh and you know it’s Nike. The golden arches represent McDonald’s. Same goes for Apple’s half-munched apple.
These companies are practically glued inside your brain, and strong brand guidelines are part of the glue that makes them stick.
But brand guidelines go far beyond a logo or icon. It’s in their colors, imagery, fonts, tone, and even the feeling you get when you see one of their ads.
In this article, we’re going to look closer at what brand guidelines are, 12 examples from companies that nailed it, and some tips for how to create brand guidelines of your own.
Let’s get to it.
- What Are Brand Guidelines?
- 12 Companies With Killer Brand Guidelines
- Tips on How to Create Brand Guidelines
- Make Your Brand a Consistent Experience
- Want to Learn More?
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What Are Brand Guidelines?
Brand guidelines, also called a brand style guide, are essentially an instruction manual and rule book on how to communicate your brand.
They lay out all the visual details, as well as important notes about the company’s voice, tone, and messaging. They come in the form of a physical or digital booklet filled with examples of what to do and what not to do.
Brand guidelines comprehensively cover a company’s brand identity, including its:
- Logos: full logos, secondary logos, and icons
- Color palette: primary and secondary colors
- Typography: font styles, sizes, and spacing
- Other imagery: photos, illustrations, and artwork
- Voice and tone: how the brand uses language and emotion
When companies take the time to create brand guidelines, it helps to ensure that their brand image stays consistent no matter where it shows up.
This will pay off big time in the long run, as your company will generate the familiarity and reliability that open the doors to brand loyalty.
Next up, let’s explore 12 awesome brand guidelines examples that you can use as inspiration.
12 Companies With Killer Brand Guidelines
While some logos and brand images might seem random, savvy companies create them with specific strategy and meaning. Asana helps people understand the “why” behind their branding by explaining their choices, including the logo’s three dots.
These dots highlight the limitless potential of human collaboration, and the company hopes that they communicate a sense of clarity, balance, and purpose-driven design.
Micah Daigle, who co-led a rebrand for the SaaS company, even published a brand book about the origin and thought process behind Asana’s rebranding.
For food companies, photography can be a make-or-break. That’s why Nusr-Et included product photography in their brand guidelines.
They use cold and dark backgrounds to make sure the food is the star of the show. Especially in meat photos, the texture and thickness should be easily seen so that viewers can immediately tell that it’s high quality stuff.
These photos set a clear mood and tone for the company’s branding: the minimalist backgrounds and attention to detail show sophistication and dedication to their craft.
You can learn more about Nusr-Et’s brand formation here. If you’re thinking of starting a restaurant, you can even use it as a brand guidelines template for your own business.
3. Wolf Circus
Ecommerce company Wolf Circus’ brand guidelines cover everything from the brand’s “why” to its typeface system.
When going through its brand style guide, you can see how certain colors are key indicators of Wolf Circus brand design. Blue-grey, pastel pink, and nude act as supporting colors that can be used for various design elements and backgrounds.
Their grand guidelines also show how the brand wants to display its promotional content.
For example, Wolf Circus wants advertisements for its product to emphasize minimalism and make the jewelry the center of attention.
4. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters, a lifestyle retailer, is all about edgy designs and quirky product shots in its visually creative style guide.
The retailer’s brand guidelines include its photography methodology and a good deal of information about its logo and brand face.
As Urban Outfitters believes in evolving with consumers’ changing preferences, the retailer doesn’t shy away from rebranding itself every six months or so.
Everything from the logo to the store environment is refreshed to appeal to modern consumers, making Urban Outfitters one of the best brand guidelines examples to follow if you’re interested in staying hip and relevant.
5. Google Marketing Platform
Sometimes it’s necessary to merge two products into a single brand.
On July 24, 2018, Google launched their Google Marketing Platform – a collaborative brand that unified their DoubleClick advertiser products and the Google Analytics 360 Suite.
This new brand focuses on being trustworthy, professional, and insightful, while still maintaining that feeling of approachability that Google customers have come to love.
Their extensive visual guide blends simplicity and powerful visual elements to showcase their brand in a way that’s easy to understand.
Ride-hailing app Uber communicates its brand to the general public via nine core elements:
- Tone of voice
The company’s brand page provides an overview of each of these elements, along with best-in-class examples for quick insights.
An overview of the Illustration section, for example, shows that the company uses limited color, clean lines, negative space, and basic geometric shapes to give its illustrations a branded feel.
In its younger days, Alienware was branded as a company that catered to “serious gamers.”
But after doing more market research to better understand its audience, the company realized that serious gamers view gaming as a lifestyle choice – one with a diverse, ever-expanding culture.
So the company revamped, using its brand guidelines to show that its new identity is a closer reflection of the gaming community’s identity.
Everything from illustrations and logo to layouts and photography are also clearly defined for anyone looking to promote or sell the company’s products through their own campaigns.
Audi is a household name around the world, which means that the brand is replicated and promoted in thousands of places.
That’s why the company’s online brand guidelines are very specific.
They include with different guidelines for their brand appearance in user interfaces, communication media, corporate branding, corporate sounds, motion pictures, motorsports, and dealer facilities.
There are even ratios and alignment rules for using their logo in any branding material.
A broad color palette and lively layouts complement the rich, colorful history of the Carrefour brand.
Their brand guidelines content focuses on being warm, open, and connected to their brand’s environment. Because Carrefour is in the food retail industry, this is an excellent approach to take in their goal of becoming recognized and respected for their dedication to customer service.
If you’re building a welcoming “family brand” that aims to instill a sense of familiarity and warmth, Carrefour’s brand book might have some great inspiration.
This Apple-owned app makes it easy to identify songs that you hear in restaurants, shops, and pretty much anywhere else.
The company implements the same straightforward approach in its brand identity guidelines as it does in its user interface. It explains the important role its logo plays in identifying its brand, and how to combine the logo with the watermark in different contexts.
Shazam also incorporates a little bit of humor in its identity guide to keep things fun and interesting, while driving home the brand’s personality.
More than 20 years after it was born, Netflix continues to grow in popularity as a cornerstone of the on-demand media market.
Naturally, the company’s logo and “N” icon have practically grown into entities of their own.
Because its brand is mostly recognized by this, it doesn’t concentrate on too much in its online brand guidelines except for the logo and symbol.
This goes to show that your brand guidelines only need to go as far as the scope of your brand.
Sometimes, the basics are all you need to effectively keep things in line.
It’s not surprising that NASA’s brand guidelines are thorough. The organization even has a different name for their 60-page document – the “Graphics Standards Manual.”
This manual is one of the best brand guidelines examples when it comes to leaving no stone unturned. It has exceptional attention to detail and use of examples to illustrate each point.
This is a stark contrast to the last example of Netflix’s simplicity.
Let this be a drilldown of the lesson that there’s no single right way to make brand guidelines, and that yours should be a reflection of your brand’s unique position and goals.
Speaking of your brand, here are a few tips as you create your own guidelines.
Tips on How to Create Brand Guidelines
1. Include Dos and Don’ts
Truly helpful brand guidelines don’t just tell you what you should do. They also paint a picture about what you shouldn’t do.
This helps to drive home your usage requirements in a visual, easy-to-understand way.
OGSystems has a playful way of telling you the dont’s, like making sure that the logo is never placed on high-contrast backgrounds or backgrounds that are too similar to the logo colors.
The guidelines also make it clear that you’ll be harshly judged if you tilt the logo or add embellishments like drop shadows and gradients.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Specific
The more details, the better. If you’ve addressed this in your brand strategy, explain specific scenarios and uses for different colors, fonts, and imagery.
In Element Three’s brand guidelines, the company has an exact font for pretty much every communication channel.
The Typeface Usage section discusses the font name and style for titles and headlines, as well as body copy. These rules apply to multiple channels, including web and print content, emails, and internal employee events.
No room for uncertainty there.
3. Brand Your Guidelines
The purpose of brand guidelines is to make sure your brand is always conveyed in the same way – and the document itself is no exception.
Think of it as another marketing material that showcases your brand’s vibe.
You can accomplish this by adding small touches that are in line with the guidelines you’re explaining.
For example, instead of numbering pages with plain black numbers, use your logo icon and color accents to make it your own. Use your brand colors and fonts in section headings, as well as in your explanations and descriptions.
Here’s an older iteration of the Quiqup brand, which used a fun curly Q in its logo and icon. The company extended this looped line throughout the brand guidelines document to create a visual flow while enforcing the visual identity.
4. Name Your Primary Color
If you want to go a step further in solidifying you brand, name your primary color.
For example, Netflix calls its primary color “Netflix red,” and HubSpot uses “HubSpot orange.” Spotify uses – you guessed it – “Spotify green”.
In doing this, it creates an air of importance around your brand, while claiming the color as your private territory. (Spoiler alert: it’s not, but it sure looks cool.)
This brand guidelines tip is so simple that it almost feels like cheating.
5. Consider Using a Professional
It’s a bit ironic for your brand guidelines to be a hack job, don’t you think?
If nobody on your team has graphic design skills, consider hiring a professional to nail down the most important parts of your brand.
For a young business, this might feel like a steep investment, but as you know by now, your brand is a huge deal.
Make Your Brand a Consistent Experience
As we already discussed, consistency is critical if you want your brand to stick in consumers’ minds. Every little detail counts, from your primary color all the way down to the font you use in your company emails.
Brand guidelines are a great tool for laying all of these rules out and ensuring that they’re always followed. Guidelines are especially helpful if you partner with other businesses that will be using your visual brand elements, like in promotions and advertisements.
By proactively making sure that everyone is always on the same page, you’ll have greater control over your brand image.
And as your business grows and matures, this will help to build a trustworthy and reliable experience for everyone who engages with it – which means more customers and more profits.